In February of this year, Nancy’s East End Diner reopened after being closed for more than a year—and Wilkinsburg-based artists found themselves meeting there and talking about the art each was creating in their studios. “We’d all say how interesting it is that there are so many artists in Wilkinsburg,” says sculptor Dee Briggs.
“There are a large number of us making art as our primary pursuit—we thought this was fascinating and exciting,” she says, “and we want to share this with the people of Wilkinsburg and the region.”
And share they will: on April 18, the artists of Wilkinsburg are hosting Dream City Art, a free one-day event to showcase the work of 45 artists at 10 different sites in Wilkinsburg.
The event is completely volunteer organized and has no financial backing. “It’s all driven by the artists,” says Briggs. Over the past two months they’d meet to talk about the event—and at each meeting more artists showed up. “There was plenty of beer and snacks,” she laughs.
They came up with the name Dream City Works—based on the name of an amusement park that existed in Wilkinsburg from 1908-1916. “Who knew?” says artist Dan Harris.
“It’s Dream City Art—we’re just dreaming up something,” he says.
Harris lived in Wilkinsburg for 20 years—and when he was looking to buy a large building, he looked in Lawrenceville, Braddock and other up-and-coming neighborhoods that support artists—but they weren’t affordable enough. Harris worked his way back to Wilkinsburg.
“Wilkinsburg is a vibrant and affordable neighborhood for artists to move to,” says Harris who bought a 7,500-square-foot commercial building with his partner, Joe Petrina, a graphic designer who created the promotional material and map for Dream City Art.
“We see the bright future that can happen here,” says Harris.
Harris’ building—Pen Ten 18—is a former Tire & Lube Center—and Briggs’ studio—the former Wilkinsburg Fire Station—are just two of 10 sites along the tour.
The event will have two sessions—the walking tour will be from 12-5 p.m. along the Penn Avenue corridor. Artists will open their studios, and there are two pop-up spaces that will feature installation art, hands-on workshops and the art of Wilkinsburg. Check out the website for information and artist links.
Each site will feature several carefully paired artists. “At each site, we want artists that will reflect each other,” says Harris, “so it’s not arbitrary.”
The evening session is from 6-9 p.m. on the Biddle Ave. corridor and will include a gallery exhibition and a sound walk led by the artist.
“You always hear negative things about Wilkinsburg—but it’s fantastic and we love living here,” says Briggs, “and we want to expose people to this.”
Harris agrees: “We really want to get the community involved to recognize the potential of Wilkinsburg.”